Astronaut captures rare, ethereal lightning flash from space station ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet snaps a 'transient luminous event' from orbit.

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ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet observed a ‘transient luminous phenomenon’ from orbit.

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The round blue glow is a “transient luminous phenomenon” seen from the ISS in September 2021.


“Transient luminous phenomenon” sounds like a euphemism for ghost, but it’s actually a beautiful phenomenon that can sometimes be seen from the International Space Station. European Space Agency astronaut and current ISS resident Thomas Pesquet shared a view of an ethereal blue glow emerging over Europe.

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Transient luminous events are caused by upper atmospheric lightning. This happened in early September and Pesquet tweeted about it this week, calling it “a very rare occurrence”.

The ISS is in an ideal position to study color phenomena, which are described using a range of fictional names, including elves, sprites, and giants. Photographers with keen eyes are also able to capture them from the ground, as These stunning views of the Red Sprites shared in 2017.

“The fascinating thing about this lightning is that they were seen for real by pilots a few decades ago and scientists weren’t sure they actually existed,” Pesquet said on Flickr. “Fast forward a few years and we can confirm elves, and sprites are very real and could even affect our climate!”

Pesquet’s image represents a single frame from a time-lapse taken from the station. The image would be a beauty to behold for the way it reflects the curve of the Earth and the twinkling lights of Europe below. The momentary dazzling event captured at its finest takes it to the next level.

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